Category Archives: Horror

Mama (2013)

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Mama

Mama

Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?

I was predisposed to like this movie.

Ever since Pan’s Labyrinth, I’ve known Guillermo del Toro can deliver an intriguing fantasy world. I also know he can deliver chills & goosebumps, he definitely did here.

Jessica Chastain, Mama

Further setting my expectations was the casting of Jessica Chastain, who manages to portray strength & delicacy in whatever measure needed in each of her roles. She is quite good here – and nearly unrecognizable with short black hair and an array of tattoos.

This is sufficiently creepy and visually arresting, you get the requisite jump-out-of-your-seat shots (perhaps they go to that well a few times too many), you may have some lingering chills. There is nothing too gory in the gruesome here, so if you are the type to have nightmares, they may be spooky – but not bloody.

The story is…weak. Not exactly a think piece, certainly no surprises in the plot. Still, it is a ghost story and, if you are into that sort of thing, you should be sufficiently satisfied with this one.

I did have a minor quibble, but since it is a bit of a spoiler I put it below.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 65%; Audience 56%


SPOILERS
Hover to reveal

Why would this entity, who kept these girls alive for 5 years, suddenly want to kill them?

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

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Chernobyl Diaries

Six tourists hire an extreme tour guide who takes them to the abandoned city Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. During their exploration, they soon discover they are not alone.

The idea could have worked as a tense thriller or campy horror flick, if it had been properly handled. Unfortunately, the version we got is neither. The characters are cliched and flat, the ‘scares’ are of the everything-is-quiet-and-something-jumps-out-BOO variety.  It all wraps up in a predictable and unsatisfying end.

Get 1 of 5 only because of Uri, the tour guide, and zombies.

 


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 20%; Audience 30%

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The Snowtown Murders (2011)

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The Snowtown Murders

Based on true events, 16 year-old Jamie falls in with his mother’s new boyfriend and his crowd of self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, a relationship that leads to a spree of torture and murder.

Daniel Henshall
Yet another based-on-a-true-story horror flick. Hard to believe, but the actual events are even more horrific* than this movie reveals. What the movie reveals is graphic enough – and difficult to watch.

The movie is slow, especially compared to the standard American thriller. The pace dulls the sense of growing menace a bit, but the cast does a fair job keeping us on edge.

Particularly good is Daniel Henshall as John Bunting. We meet him as an amiable suitor to young Jamie’s mother, and he seems a welcome, stable addition to the family. Bunting presents as a caring protector, though we see his darkness simmering just below the surface. His emerging psychopathy is chillingly portrayed by this talented actor.

If this were a work of fiction, I would have criticized it for having a “lazy script”, merely throwing in bits of blood & gore to shock the audience. Knowing the true story, however, I find I am grateful for the director’s restraint in merely showing bits of blood & gore to convey what was much, much greater horror.

This is not an enjoyable film. It is not one I would ever watch again. From a critical standpoint, however, it was well done and accomplished what a movie should – it told the story. It also left me especially disturbed in the knowledge that Bunting was able to infect those around him with his evil; ultimately 6 people were directly involved in the murders and many more knew but didn’t report them. One violent psychopath is scary, a pack of them is terrifying. Whether they were charmed by him into participation, or intimidated into it, I don’t know – either way, my skin will be crawling at the thought for a long time.

In my circle, this isn’t the type of story that is well received, so only 2 on the scale. You can see by the Rotten Tomatoes numbers below how well reviewed it was by critics & audience alike.

* The documentary on YouTube was made prior to the release of many sealed documents. Therefore, it is possible some info made it into the movie that was not referenced in the documentary.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 86%; Audience 70%

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2016: Obama’s America (2012)

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2016: Obama’s America

A documentary that examines the question, “If Barack Obama wins a second term, where will we be in 2016?”

When it comes to political movies of the Right, you can generally tell if they hit their mark by the critics’ reaction. The “independent” critics show their true colors by panning the movie for making points with which they disagree, not the quality of the film itself.

So it is with Dinesh D’Souza’s latest work, a documentary largely based on his successful book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage”. Critics who gleefully embraced as “resourceful” & “skillful” Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 now find political documentaries “outrageous” and “simplistic”

For those, like me, who have been paying attention, the information here is not new. What is new is the framing, presenting plausible explanations for some of Obama’s most implausible actions. D’Souza presents a compelling narrative of Obama’s early life and the forces that shaped his world view.

For those who have not been especially curious about the candidate, this could serve as a primer on his life. Perhaps the most effective device for conveying the information are the words from Barack Obama’s books, read by Barack Obama himself for the audio releases. It is hard to dismiss as partisan spin what you hear the man say in his own voice.

It loses one star only because there are those in my circle who won’t see it under any circumstances. If you are one of those, I urge you to consider the tag line, “Love Him. Hate Him. You Don’t Know Him” and ask yourself if, in fact, there is more you could stand to learn.
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Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 30%; Audience 77%

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Drag Me To Hell (2009)

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Drag Me To Hell

Drag Me To Hell

A loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point.

Not much to say on this one. What could have been a creepily-fun horror flick is ruined by ridiculous grossness aimed at making the audience nauseous. Gets one on the Word of Mouth Scale because some (mostly teenage boys) are into that sort of thing.

It does well with critics & audience reviewers, so…you may enjoy it.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92%; Users 79%

1408 (2007)

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1408

The only demons in room 1408 are those within you. Renowned horror novelist Mike Enslin (Cusack) only believes what he can see with his own two eyes.

D and I caught an early showing of this creep-fest today. Actually, there was some discussion of seeing Evan Almighty, but he made the (wise, as it turns out) choice of Cusack over Carrell.

My usual complaint with Stephen King’s books, and by extension his movies, is his need to wrap up everything neatly. He ties everything together and delivers you a tidy package. For instance, in The Green Mile, the bad guy isn’t just a very bad man, he ends up being the very bad man. The narrator ends up giving us a little synopsis, as well, just in case anything slipped by us. That is true of almost all of his stuff that I can think of.

Not so with 1408, and that is a very good thing. I don’t know whether the credit goes to King, to the screenwriter, or to the director. Whoever it was kept this really creepy movie . . . well . . . really creepy.

Fans of Samuel L Jackson who are hoping to see him do his stuff will be disappointed, he is in only 2 or 3 short scenes. This one is all Cusack, and he owns it.

My one casting complaint is Mary McCormack as his wife, Lily. She appears to have done something to her upper lip leaving it swollen and stiff. Very distracting during her scenes.


Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing: critics 77%, users 88%

Slither (2006)

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Slither

A mysterious meteor infected with a deadly alien plague brings chaos to a small hunting town in the feature-length directorial debut of screenwriter James Gunn (Scooby-Doo, Dawn of the Dead). Booted out of bed by his young, trophy-wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks), and in desperate need of some female companionship, wealthy Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) picks up bar local floozy Brenda (Brenda James) and heads into the woods for a hedonistic night of extramarital excitement. When a flaming meteor lights up the sky before crashing to the ground nearby, Grant’s curiosity gets the best of him and he sets out to find the space rock. Subsequently infected with a rampaging space virus, which he passes along to Brenda, Grant transforms into a horrific, cow-munching monster and begins terrorizing the town. As thousands of squirmy space slugs burrow into the brains of the unsuspecting Wheelsy denizens creating an ever-amassing horde of mindless space zombies, panic grips the small town and it’s up to Starla, Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), and gung-ho mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) to put an end to the infection and save the planet. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Campy, Sci-fi, Horror – the perfect way to spend an evening. There are definitely some gorey bits, and the script wouldn’t win any awards, but it is a hoot.

This is a great, goofy B movie, a clever homage to the flicks that filled double bills in the 1950s, combining low-brow slapstick and gory scares in equal measure. Art it’s not; but it certainly is fun. ~ Full Review

Lower on the Word of Mouth Scale due to gore and foul language, but good fun for those who can appreciate such entertainment.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 84%; Users 77%

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